Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Super Bowl: Sports or Ads’

Close your eyes for a second. Do you hear it? The exploding flash bulbs, the howling fans, the racing hearts, the crescendo of imaginary drums as the Great American Sporting Event nears the 48-hour mark of its countdown?

Nope. I can’t either. That doesn’t mean Super Bowl XL won’t be exciting, of course – a Steelers-Seahawks matchup is about as compelling as they come, despite its unexpectedness – but the buzz has spread languidly from the epicenters of Seattle and Pittsburgh.

Something, no doubt, is missing. But what is it? What happened last year that made Super Bowl XXXIX such a must-see event?

How quickly we forget. Last year’s game was the Super Bowl before which our nation stood still – not in anticipation of another overtime thriller, but to see what the networks would do 12 months after Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction.” Much of the country was unable to realize that waiting for censorship is a metaphysical impossibility.

Nevertheless, censorship there was. Much of it was because NFL executives went a few yards too far when it came to pulling commercials from last year’s telecast; in some cases, however, it was the advertisers who got cold feet. A year after Super Bowl commercials lost every hint of sexuality and every chance to even joke about it, it’s about time for both parties to grow up.

Here in America, citizens must obey federal law, but they’re never chased down and handcuffed when they decry the height of their taxes. For last year’s Super Bowl commercials, though, a different standard appeared. It saw the pulling of two advertisements simply because they poked fun at the censors who viewed them.

The first commercial, for Internet host, depicts a mock senate hearing. The subject – a curvaceous, clothed woman requesting permission to appear in an advertisement – embarks upon a mock-sensuous, fully-clothed dance to demonstrate what she intends to do on the commercial, pending her audience’s approval.

“Surely by now you must realize that you’re upsetting the committee,” one panelist remarks.

Did censors pull the commercial because viewers couldn’t handle the woman’s silly, unrevealing dance? Or did they pull it because the hearing, according to fake, C-SPAN-style logos, was held in Salem, Mass., a town made famous for its witch-hunting exploits?

Was it because certain “Footloose”-era dance moves qualify as unfit for television? Or did they pull it because one elderly member of the panel responded to the dance by applying an oxygen mask?

Reasonable human beings would assume the former. They would consider making strategically-aimed humor censorable material an injustice fit only for books like “1984” or “Fahrenheit 451.”

Yet a second commercial, produced for Anheuser-Busch, was removed from public consumption for the latter reason. In it, a Super Bowl stagehand tries unsuccessfully to open his Bud Light, so he looks around, sees a dress nearby, and uses it for traction between his fingers and the bottle. This time, the twist is a success, but he has broken a piece of the dress, which he delicately fixes with masking tape.

Moments later, Janet Jackson needs the dress. Suddenly, we realize that before us stands a behind-the-scenes view of the moments preceding Jackson’s infamous malfunction. As expected, we see the stagehand before a television screen – and we hear an announcer exclaiming, “Whoa! That’s something you don’t see every day!”

After consulting with Fox and the NFL, Anheuser-Busch pulled the ad. Company Vice President Bob Lachky’s explanation, as told to The Wall Street Journal: “Why take the risk? All you need is one person to be offended. Some people don’t want to be reminded of the incident.”

Reminded of the incident? Reminded of the incident? Did the consumer watchdogs censure every news network that included references to Boobgate in their nightly programming over the course of 12 months?

Apparently, even joking about censorship somehow finds reprehensibility. Even more reprehensibility, in fact, than commercial depictions of violence, which on last year’s Super Bowl telecast ranged from cattle prodding to beating with a baseball bat.

One advertisement, for the new Ford Mustang, shows a police officer approaching the stopped convertible on a freezing-cold day in Fargo, N.D. When the officer receives no response upon speaking to the driver, he taps the man’s glass-hard face, lifts his sunglasses and discovers that he has quite visibly frozen to death.

Another commercial sees a parachutist throw a six-pack of Bud Light off a small jet in order to coax his frightened friend into jumping. The pilot, apparently thirsty, jumps instead, without a parachute. I’d imagine he won’t find the landing pleasant.

Yet an ad in which someone rips a dress and then gazes in shock at a television screen was declared too inappropriate for airing.

The issue should be about protecting the viewing public, not protecting the corporations from frivolous lawsuits. Corporations shouldn’t tremble at the FCC’s post-Janet, seven-digit fee for objectionable material – which, by the way, once leveled off at $27,500.

Anheuser-Busch should have shown some guts, and they should do so come Sunday. If letters start pouring in about how a Janet-themed commercial creates as much psychological harm as the incident itself, let’s see how far the lawsuit goes.

Come Sunday, I want to see funny Super Bowl commercials, and I don’t care if they enable me to remember an event out of my own free will. I also want to live in a country that doesn’t need to include memory control and insults to the censors as justifications for limiting free speech.

I took no offense to the “wardrobe malfunction.” I have no fear in admitting this un-American travesty.

So long as no one tells the FCC, that is.

Alex Fumelli is a sophomore in the College and Features Editor for THE HOYA. THE MENDOZA LINE appears every other Friday in HOYA SPORTS.

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